The Collection at the Museum
The High Desert Museum cares for a collection of approximately 29,000 objects from the Great Basin, Plateau and Pacific Northwest territories. The collection ranges from historic objects to contemporary artwork and consists of clothing, furniture, tools, archaeological materials, basketry, paintings, drawings, sculpture, rare books and photographs.
The Museum’s collection is particularly strong in the realm of U.S. Forest Service objects and archives and items related to the experiences of Basque, Chinese and vaquero people in the region. These items help convey the range of experiences and perspectives of people in the High Desert. Among the objects at the Museum are a World War II-era military-issued Harley-Davidson motorcycle, Basque tree carvings, photographs by Edward S. Curtis and a 1950s Smokey the Bear costume.
The DeMoss Stagecoach at the Museum is possibly one of the most famous stagecoaches in the American West. It was once owned by Henry James “Hank” Monk, who used the stagecoach to run great quantities of gold before railroads were built, as well as to transport passengers such as Horace Greeley, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, Prince Alexander of Russia (to a Bill Cody buffalo hunt) and President Rutherford B. Hayes.
The Museum also cares for almost 7,000 items connected to Native cultures. These items are associated with tribes from across the Plateau, including Umatilla, Wasco, Wishram, Paiute, Nez Perce, Cayuse, Yakama and Warm Springs, along with tribes in the Plains, Southwest and other regions. Doris Swayze Bounds, a banker in Pendleton, Oregon, collected most of these items and donated them to the Museum in 1990. Collaborations with Native knowledge holders and tribes are helping to honor the ongoing relationships between these items and contemporary Native communities.
In addition, the Museum is home to a growing collection of contemporary artwork, including works by Native artists such as Rick Bartow, Pat Courtney Gold, James Lavadour and Lillian Pitt. Other art of the American West in the collection consists of works by Nick Eggenhofer, Edward Borein, Edward Quigley and Charles M. Russell.
Accessing the Collection
To access our collections for research or otherwise please download and submit a Request for Access to Collections form. For questions concerning the collections, please contact our Collections department at 541-382-4754 ext. 392 or contact us.
Learn more about the spiritual connection Plateau people have with items made by Plateau artists. Tisa Matheson (Nimipuu) and Phillip Cash Cash, Ph.D. (Weyíiletpuu and Niimíipuu) offer a deeper look at a Plateau woman’s beaded dress, hat, eagle feather headdress and man’s painted war shirt on display in the By Hand Through Memory exhibition.
Dive into a deeply engaging scene in Spirit of the West with one object from our collection. Learn more about the Hi Loy Mercantile, which depicts an early 20th century Chinese business and community hub. Using a golden lantern, the virtual tour opens the world of Chinese immigrants in Silver City, Idaho in the late 1800s, lighting the way into the story of Chinese miners who came to boomtowns across the High Desert.